Police investigate alleged brutality

January 30, 2008 4:07:52 PM PST
A young man on crutches is one of 20 people who allege they were victims of excessive force by Philadelphia police.

The incident happened Saturday night as his relatives were leaving his cousin's sweet 16 party at a dance hall on Front Street near Diamond Street.

"I came out. It was a commotion outside. All I saw seen were bats, sticks. Cops telling everybody to get inside," said Felix Molina.

It seems the melee started with a report of a fight on the sidewalk next door. When a responding police sergeant was punched in the face, allegedly by 19-year-old Robert Molina who had also been at the party, an assist call went out. Fifty or so officers responded as the family came out to the sidewalk.

Aurora Molina claims police assaulted her outside her daughter's party as she tried to protect her niece.

"They threw my niece against the car and I tried covering her. That's when somebody came behind and hit me with a stick or something because it was hard," said Aurora Molina.

Robert Molina was charged with aggravated assault. No one else was arrested. Police filed no other use of force reports, despite 20 people going to the hospital with injuries ranging from a dislocated elbow and broken ribs to a busted skull requiring more than a dozen staples.

The police internal affairs division is investigating, trying to determine what officers were there and if excessive force was used. Even if excessive force is ruled out, any injuries that occur during an exchange with police must be reported.

"It's kind of inconceivable to believe that with that many injuries, that some of them weren't at least sustained by the hands of police," said Deputy Commissioner James Ross.

Police actually called media on this story. It is part of new Commissioner Ramsey's edict for a transparent department in which the community can clearly see what's going on. Those alleging they were victims of police brutality see his handling of this case as a test.